I came up just short of my goal of 50 books for the year. Goodreads says slightly more because it included several comic titles that I choose to leave off this list. I’m not feeling out of sorts though because of this report from pocket “Pocket: Or the Other 849,361 Words I Read in 2014” According to Pocket I read enough articles to make up 18 books worth of words.
The Rating System:
Liked It A lot
1. Blood Stone – A free YA Kindle book- it seems like the author must have skipped the editorial phase and released straight to Kindle. The number of errors was distracting from the story. In one instance it was basically like “and then Nicolas said, ‘Hey Nicolas,'” when you knew he was talking to another character. The story too, was very atypical of YA books these days; teenagers with a special secret, treacherous adults, and a destiny to save the world. My biggest beef with this book was that the narrator character, Maddison, was pretty useless, she never turns the corner to come into her own. The other characters are always having to rescue her or clue her in on the obvious.
2. Persians – Another Kindle book (gee does it seems like someone got a Kindle for Christmas?) This is basically the Greek play that the latest 300 movie is based on, but told from the standpoint of the Persians. It opens with Xerxes mother questioning why he has been away so long. It reminded me of the Song of Deborah from the Bible in Judges 5. This Greek play is quite different from many of the others, but nonetheless I enjoyed it.
3. The Defender – A Newbery Honor Roll title, which really was as good as many Newbery award books. It’s set in Siberia and unlike many Newbery titles is not about the coming of age of a young person. Rather it’s more about the coming of age of an idea. This book is about an old man who the other villagers consider odd because he has developed a fondness for the local rams which have become endangered by trophy hunting. An excellent read.
4. Rae of Hope – Another free YA Kindle book and another let down. This is the one that taught me to be skeptical about free Kindle titles, esp by authors whose books are not available in print. Again a special teenage girl, adults keeping secrets with dangerous intent, romance, super powers… yadda yadda yadda. It’s the Buffy syndrome, everyone wants to repeat a hit. This one rates higher than Blood Stone because the heroine is likable and the fact that it has a unique super power system where tattoos give the teens their powers.
5. Phoenix Rising – Unlike the previous 2 free YA Kindle books this one was really good. I found this one through a recommendation via Inspired Reads instead of a random search. Phoenix Rising is a little bit of a head bender. A plane crash sends Danielle into a new world, in a Alice in Wonderland sort of way. This new world is more Aladdin than anything you’d find down the rabbit hole. The world Danielle finds herself in is just as strange and twisted. She makes a life for herself as a medicine woman, and eventually becomes famous and comes under the notice of the sorcerer Nox.
6. Inkheart – Wow, what a fantastic book. I had seen the movie without knowing that it was based on a book. It’s a fantasy adventure story for book lovers. Maggies life has been unusual, moving around from place to place as her father, Mo works repairing rare books. But a late night visit from a mysterious man named Dustfinger send her and her father on the run. In fact Maggie finds out that they have been on the run her whole life, from someone named Capricorn whose connected to the disappearance of her mother long ago. You really should read this book.
7. The Circle Maker : Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears – Horrible… Ugh! Don’t read this overly hyped book. Read my full review here.
8.Out of the Ruins – *Note: The author is a personal friend of mine* I would not have naturally been inclined to read this book if it had not been written by my friend Karen Barnett. I’m not too into Christian romance or historical romance stories. Out of the Ruins, like her previous book Mistaken, reads more like a historical adventure. Romance is there but like real life its not the whole story, its not sugary sweet or filled with unreal sexual expectations. The historical details, esp of the medical profession, where fantastic. Karen is a great researcher and it shows in the details. I was drawn in and held until the end. And I’ve already put the next book Beyond the Ashes on pre-order.
9. Wizard Rising (The Five Kingdoms Book 1) – When I picked out this book for my monthly Kindle lending book I didn’t know I was getting myself into a 7 book series. I trusted this book more than my earlier Kindle picks because it was highly rated and Toby Neighbors had a lot of books under his belt. Well I was swept away into the world of the Torr and the Five Kingdoms, and Zollin the boy who finds himself suddenly a wizard and at the center of unwanted attention.
10. Magic Awakening (The Five Kingdoms Book 2) – Book 2 keeps the pressure on Zollin, but at least he has met a mentor and can begin to learn how magic works in the realms of the five kingdoms. Kelvich is a character I grow to like quite a bit. I enjoyed the hints at a great lore and bigger picture behind everything that is happening.
11. Hitty Her First Hundred Years – Hitty is a different kind of book and took me a while to warm up to, but the story of a doll as she gets lost and found and different the different girls who play with and take care of her ended up being endearing. I’ve never thought of what an autobiography from a 100 year old doll might be like, but I think Rachel Fields hit the nail on the head. From the back of the book, “This is the story of the first hundred years of Hitty’s life. And that’s only the beginning for a doll as special as Hitty.”
12. The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle) – I really enjoyed the way this fantasy book was laid out. It’s a story told within a story. The first story in the “present” is about a mysterious bartender in a town on the outskirts of civilization. When his true identity is found out he sits down to tell his story to a traveling scribe. He promises the scribe to tell him the whole story over 3 nights. This book is the first night of story telling. I’m going to end it there because I think you should just read it and experience it for yourself… fantasy, adventure, mystery.
13. Artful: A Novel – I am not normally into vampire books or shows, but Artful was a fun twist on the whole idea, in fact its a twist on Oliver Twist. Peter David has written a lot of expanded cannon books for different sci-fi series., movie tie-ins and graphic novels. Taking on a Victorian vampire story with Characters from a Dickens story is an interesting choice. If you enjoy both of those genres then you’ll probably enjoy Artful.
14. Nancy Drew 56: The Thirteenth Pearl – **Spoilers** Nancy Drew tracts a jewelry thief from River Heights to Japan and back to River Heights again only to find out that it’s all about some sort of Pearl worshiping cults. A very different kind of Nancy Drew book.
15. While Beauty Slept – This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I have mixed feelings about this book. The biggest problem was that the main character / narrator spends so much time in the first half of the book doing two things that really bugged me. In fact by page 173 I would have given up if this wasn’t a Early Reviewers book.
The first thing that got to me was the amount of FORESHADOWING!!! It was exactly like that shouting at you from every other page. It was like the author took a class on foreshadowing and thought it was so awesome she wanted to try it out and use it as much as possible.
With that is also that fact that the character keeps contradicting herself. She makes herself out to be helpless telling us over and over again that she didn’t have the ability to affect people or events around her, but when she foreshadows the really bad things to come she keeps saying, “If only I had known I might have been able to change the outcome.” You can’t have it both ways. Either you are helpless about what happens to you, or you can change things.
But pushing through their are things to like about the story. The characters are endearing, and the setting is very charming. The story itself is a good realistic way to retell a timeless fairy tale. You can imagine that this really was the history behind the myth.
16. Hidden Fire (The Five Kingdoms Book 3) – This was not the strongest of the Five Kingdom books. I kinda felt bogged down by the amount of hopping back and forth. But the cliff hanger ending kept me interested in continuing with the series.
17. Crying Havoc (The Five Kingdoms Book 4) – Even though most of the characters are still separated at this point the action really picks up, and it finally feels like the story is moving forward. The previous book felt like fillers. The power struggles of the Kingdoms and internal turmoil of Zollin and Brianna’s relationship make this book much better than book 3.
18. The Realms Thereunder – I tried this book by Ross Lawhead because I am such a huge fan of his father Stephen R. Lawhead. This book took time to grow on me. But still it had problems, and at times I just didn’t understand what in the world was going on. Part of the problem is that he drops in and out of world building, so you can’t get a real picture of the rules of the world. Still for a debut novel it was ambitious.
“Freya Reynolds is a university student with a touch of OCD and an obsession with myth and folklore. Daniel Tully is living rough on the streets of Oxford, waging a secret war against an enemy only he can identify. Years ago, they found themselves in a world few know is real. They have since gone their separate ways and tried to put that adventure behind them.”
19. Taggerung (Redwall, Book 14) – Special Note: The pigmy shrews are the Jar-Jar Binks of the Redwall world. Taggerung is a middling entry into the world of Redwall. A baby otter is kidnapped from Redwall and raised by a clan of outlaws, as the son of the chief, but never quite fits in. He goes searching for his roots and the family he never knew.
20. Fierce Loyalty (The Five Kingdoms Book 5) – This book builds to an unbelievable twist ending. It seems at first like the book might be plodding along and more of the same struggling that Zollin, Brianna and their friends have been use to. However you get the sense that something bigger is brewing, and truly something earth shattering is.
21. The Moonlight Palace – A sweet coming of age story, set on the backdrop of a nation also coming of age. Singapore in the 1920’s is a place of tradition and change. The author sets up a rich backdrop and does a great job with the historical details. While sweet and endearing, this story didn’t particularly stand out as any kind of classic.
22. Prayer – Finding the Heart’s True Home – Wow! What can I say about this book? It took me months to dig through this text. Not because it was hard to read or understand, but because this is the kind of book you have to digest in small chunks. This is material to absorb to make a part of your life, and you simply can’t rush through it. If you’d like to take a journey to deepen your prayer life I highly recommend this title.
23. Password to Larkspur Lane – **Spoilers** This is one of the Nancy Drew titles I remember well from my childhood. Nancy Drew sets out to rescue an old lady who has been falsely imprisoned in a fake nursing home. The “doctor” cons wealthy old ladies into committing themselves to his home and then forces them to sign over their estates to his cohorts. Nancy tracks them down and puts a stop to their operations.
24. My Sister’s Grave – A mystery story I picked up as a Kindle first. It was a quick read, but pretty much standard modern mystery fare these days. A detective with a tragedy in her past that she can’t get over, which of course comes crashing back to the forefront and she won’t give it up until the business is finished.
25. The Book of Atrus (Myst, Book 1) – I try to reread a book every year. This year I decided to revisit the world of Myst. Despite not being a fan of the games, the books add a depth and back story to the world. Ana and her grandson Atrus live in a cleft in the desert, refugees of the great civilization of D’ni, the ones who are able to create worlds with their books.
26. Real: Becoming a 24/7 Follower of Jesus – This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers. This book is good for Christians who like:
The book asks a great question that has kept my thinking (Would anyone know I am a Christian if Sundays didn’t exist?), but the meat of the book is weak. The ARC I received feels like a draft and not a finished piece. And with the number of one word lines it feels like they were attempting to stretch it out to make it seem like the idea could possibly be book length. I know it is the trend right now for Pastors to write books, but maybe, just maybe not every pastor is cut out to be a writer. If you want to be challenged by these same ideas by a good writer try out Mark Scandrette. “Practicing the Way of Jesus” and “Free” are ten thousand times better than “Real.”
27. Sonnets from the Portuguese – Elizabeth Barret Browning is my favorite poet. Yet I had never read her most famous book cover to cover. I have the first poem memorized because of a poetry class I took in college. It’s an interesting journey of love, and knowing her biography you can see how the journey fits together with the poetry.
28.Evil Tide (The Five Kingdoms Book 6) – These last two books kind of run together in my mind. So see my final review of the Five Kingdoms books below.
29. Beyond the Soiled Curtain – Project Rescue’s Fight for the Victims of the Sex-Slave Industry – Another “Wow!” title. A very powerful book that I won’t soon forget. This is a book that should be read so that more people can understand what is happening to girls around the world. As major newspapers have lately begun carrying more headlines about the human trafficking industry this issue is finally getting the coverage it deserves. Knowledge is a beginning, what you do about it is what will change the world.
30. The Shadow Lamp – So far the weakest entry in the Bright Empires series by Stephen R. Lawhead. This entire book felt like unneeded filler to me. I kept going, “come on, come on, get to the point. Stop adding new characters and confusing the plot. Just go somewhere with this story.” I have purchased “The Fatal Tree” and hope that the last book pays off. **Spoiler** What happens to Engelbert is wrong, wrong, wrong! How could he put the nicest (and most innocent) character through that kind of pain? There better be a good pay off in the next book.
31. Wizard Falling (The Five Kingdoms Book 7) – The last two books in this series could have easily been one story. The characters are at the end of their ropes, and hope is so slim. It reminded me of the quote from Sam at the end of the Two Towers. “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.” This story really feels like that. After so much has happened, after the characters have reached their lowest point and been pretty much used up their strength, the kingdoms have been shattered, and most of the inhabitants are dead. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
32. Number the Stars– A really moving story about the Danes during WWII. Did you know that a German official tipped off the Jews about “relocation” plans? The Danes were able to smuggle most of their Jewish neighbors out of the country to safety. It’s an amazing story (although this story is fictional it’s based on the real actions of Danish citizens) that shows what quite courage can do to save lives.
33. I Saw Three Ships – A Christmas classic that everyone should read. A book full of hope and an happy ending full of Christmas Joy. Beautifully written, a book everyone should read.
34.Carbon Dating – I kickstarted this comic book that is an collection of one of my favorite web comics based on science skepticism. The book came personally signed to me and with a “Homepathy is a Gateway Placebo” decal. I continue to follow and enjoy the web comic, but enjoying owning a physical copy of the early episodes.
35. – 39. The Nameless Dwarf: The Complete Chronicles – Since I read all of these back-to-back I’m going to just do one review for all of the books. This series felt like the author put all every conceivable science fiction, fantasy and horror troupe into a bag and just started pulling stuff out. Lets see an um Dwarf, next an Ant-Man, zombies, a cyclops, oh and here’s a Biblical reference to Jonah. Then lets also have a changeling, a novice wizard and a helpless but good-hearted boy. Out of a blender and onto the pages of your Kindle. Entertaining, but not amazing.
40. Junie B., First Grader (at last!) – I loved Junie B. Jones as a kindergartener and now that she’s in 1st grade the laughs just keep coming. Oh her poor teacher, someone should have warned him. When Junie B. needs glasses and needs to make new friends thing get interesting.
41. Junie B., First Grader: Toothless Wonder – Junie B. is the first one in her class to loose a tooth. It means she wins, or does it. Can Junie B really be afraid of the tooth fairy?
42. Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May) – May is the goodie two-shoes tattle-tale of the class. Too bad she has to sit right next to Junie B. They mix like oil and water and with the Christmas performance right around the corner disaster could be in the making.
43. Connecting Church & Home: A Grace-Based Partnership (Paperback) – Common – I’ve enjoyed this book a lot. Having heard about Grace based-parenting I was afraid it was going to be a lot of feel good, gushy type stuff. It was actually filled with pretty good advice. (Though he could have spent less time on the problems. I think if you are reading the book you already know the problems church children’s ministries are facing. You pick up a book like this to find answers not to delve into the problems more.) That aside, once he gets going with the napkin illustration the book is pretty good. And I like that he gives you lot of resources at the end because this is a book about ideas to apply those ideas you will need resources and curriculum.
44. The Peacekeepers (Star Trek: The Next Generation Book 2) – The worst Star Trek TNG I have ever read. These expanded cannon books can be hit or miss, but this one is like Bizzaro World TNG. Nobody acts like they would in the series. Picard is mean and cranky and yelling at everyone. Gerodi walks all over the Prime directive (after repeatedly thinking to himself, “Is this what Picard would do?”) Data just plays along with the whole thing. They put a whole world (and their lives) at risk because of it.